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Saturday, 31 December 2016

Happy New Year 2017!

May the New Year bring all the health, happiness and light we need...

T&L warmest wishes for a wonderful year of 2017!








Monday, 26 December 2016

Boxing Day 2016

Boxing Day occurs every year on December 26th. It's a national holiday in the UK and Ireland. If the day after Christmas falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday is designated as the official public holiday. This year, Boxing Day falls on a Monday. December 26th is also the feast day of Saint Stephen, the patron saint of horses, which is why Boxing Day has come to be associated with horse racing and fox hunting. According to some Boxing Day can be traced back to the Victorian era when churches often displayed a box into which their parishioners put donations. Also in Britain, on the day after Christmas Day, servants of the wealthy were given time off to visit their families because their services were required for the Christmas Day celebrations of their employers. They were therefore allowed the following day for their own observance of the holiday and each servant would be handed a box to take home, containing gifts, bonuses and sometimes leftover food. It was also customary for tradespeople to collect 'Christmas boxes' of presents or money on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year.
Samuel Pepys mentions the practice in a diary entry from December 19th 1663: "Thence by coach to my shoemaker’s and paid all there, and gave something to the boys’ box against Christmas." Five years later Pepys was not feeling so generous. Complaining in a December 28th entry from 1668: "Called up by drums & trumpets; these things & boxes having cost me much money this Christmas."
Boxing Day is observed only in the United Kingdom, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and some other Commonwealth nations. The holiday was not perpetuated by the English in the American colonies.
Boxing Day is really 'St Stephen's Day' in Ireland, dedicated to a saint who was stoned to death for believing in Jesus. 'Wren Boys' were notorious for blackening their faces stoning wrens to death. They would then carry their catch around the town knocking on doors and asking for money. This distasteful act has now stopped, but the Wrens Boys still dress up and parade around town but collecting money for charity.
Hunts were a Boxing Day tradition but the 2004 ban on foxhunting put an end to all that. Despite this, 10 years later 250,000 people still regularly turn out to support hunting. Certain modified forms of hunting foxes with hounds are still within the law and hundreds of Boxing Day Meets take place every year.
What was once a day of relaxation and family time has now become a holy day of consumerism. The sales used to start in January post-New Year, but the desire to grab a bargain and for shops to off-load stock means many now start on Boxing Day.
Last year, Christmas Day itself emerged as one of the most popular days for online shopping, with consumers buying products in the afternoon - often after not receiving their desired gifts.
Source: The Telegraph


Saturday, 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas!




I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

To all our friends, readers and visitors, the best wishes of a very merry Christmas!



Christmas crib @ Bom Jesus Church, Matosinhos

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Beware the 'digital native' stereotype


found image @ Academia Marketing Digital
Technology teacher Mary Beth Hertz writes on Edutopia that teachers need to beware of the "dangerous" stereotype that all students these days are ‘digital natives’.  There are a lot of dangerous stereotypes out there. "Asian students are always better at math." "Boys are always better at sports." And perhaps the most dangerous of all: "The current generation are all digital natives." Hertz says that just because students know how to use technology doesn't mean they understand how to "create, read critically, use online content responsibly," and be respectful of others in the digital world. And those skills are necessary to be truly digitally savvy, she contends.
Mary Hertz cites a study in which the nonprofit organization One Laptop Per Child left pre-loaded tablets with illiterate children in remote Ethiopian villages. The children quickly figured out how to use the applications and began teaching themselves to read. Within a few months they'd overridden the software meant to freeze the desktop settings, and customized their devices.  But Hertz says this proves her point that being able to use technology does not make you proficient:
“Sure, we can place a tablet in the hands of children who have never seen a package label or a sign, and they will learn on their own. But what happens when and if those children become connected to the larger, global online community? It is not guaranteed that they will be ready to navigate etiquette and intellectual property rights on their own. “
Instead, Hertz writes, we should call students "digital citizens," which implies a more complicated relationship with technology—not innate proficiency.
She is not the first to argue that teachers cannot assume students know how to properly navigate the digital world. Jody Passanisi and Shara Peters said in Scientific American that students struggle with basic Internet searches, and a majority of teachers in a recent Pew Research Center survey said students need more training in finding credible information online.
Perhaps Hertz' claim boils down to semantics. Aren't 'digital natives' simply those who've only known a world in which electronic devices are the primary means of accessing information? The term brings to mind this video.

Source:  Education Week Teacher (slightly abridged and adapted)

Monday, 5 December 2016

Using online portfolios in the class

Our digital world is transforming the way we learn, and today's teachers are tasked with the challenging job of sifting through the deluge of educational technologies and creating a meaningful learning experience for students.
Next-generation education portfolio platforms - such as Digication, Pathbrite, Taskstream and Epsilen - are one way for teachers to start early and educate students about how they can manage their own academic and professional accomplishments. From using portfolios for giving students educational feedback to the portability of transcripts and official academic documents, new opportunities exist for lifelong learning and sharing.
Here are five best practices for implementing an education portfolio platform in any K-12 or college classroom.
image credits: Carbon Made Portfolios
1. Build in Opportunities for Peer-to-Peer Learning
Focus on the goal of increasing students' digital literacy by fostering a collaborative learning environment where some of the more tech-savvy students can guide and help others learn. These practices can generate trust, offer problem-solving opportunities, and deepen peer-to-peer learning on the educational lessons taught in the course.

2. Create Lessons That Foster Data and Knowledge Curation
Sifting through the endless hoards of information on the Internet is becoming a necessary skill. Students need to learn how to find reliable sources and how to conduct research in an organized and discriminating way. Eleventh-grade English teacher Amy McGeorge of Leadership Public Schools, a high school in the San Francisco Bay Area, began using next-generation education portfolios in the classroom to teach the literary classic Catcher in the Rye. She assigned a digital literary analysis and asked students to create an online portfolio that included what they learned about the characters. The results showed better-than-ever student engagement and understanding of the story.

3. Engaging for All Levels of Learners
One of the biggest challenges for today's large classrooms and high student-to-teacher ratios is offering high-performing students engaging activities that won't hold them back while the teachers focus on students who need additional support. Online portfolio projects are a stimulating activity that allows learners of all levels to deepen their knowledge on a subject matter or assignment while maintaining a common ground with their peers.

4. Develop Organization Skills and Plan for the Future
Instead of sorting through crumpled assignments in the bottoms of backpacks, students are able to login to their online portfolios and find everything in an organized manner. Using tags for common subject areas helps students sort through all of the information they have collected so that they can see the "bigger picture" and be reminded of all the work they have done in a specific area. I saw one example from a graduate level course at the University of Illinois in the School of Library and Information Science. Here, students were given the assignment of creating an online portfolio that showed digital materials reflecting theoretical concepts on gender, race and sexuality learned in the course. Not only did student understanding of the concepts far surpass the classes that weren't using online portfolios, but students also reported high levels of satisfaction with their ability to share their class portfolios with professional and personal contacts beyond the classroom.

5. Not All Online Portfolios are Created Equal
When picking an online portfolio, look for portfolios where the creators remain the owners of the data compiled. It's important that students and users have access to the content of the portfolio beyond the course or college education.
Using online portfolios successfully gives early adopters in the classroom the latitude to teach peers how to master the technology. Learning can be accelerated through the process of independently curating new knowledge and can also be extended beyond the classroom for a long-term collection of academic and professional successes.

By Heather Giles @ Edutopia - Technological Integration (slightly abridged)

Thursday, 24 November 2016

A Joyous Thanksgiving to You!


Thanksgiving is celebrated today, November 24th, as always in the fourth Thursday of the month, all across the USA and Canada and precedes Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days , mostly in the USA.
found pic @ Crosswalk
In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an Autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn't until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.


THANKSGIVIG AT PLYMOUTH

found pic @ mbeinstitute
In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers - an assortment of religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and other individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. A month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth. Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received an astonishing visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London and returning to his homeland on an exploratory expedition. Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.


found pic @ ucls-chicago
In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days. While no record exists of the historic banquet’s exact menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the event, and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer. Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were likely prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. Because the Pilgrims had no oven and the Mayflower’s sugar supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621, the meal did not feature pies, cakes or other desserts, which have become a hallmark of contemporary celebrations.

THANKSGIVING TRADITIONS
found pic @ fashionpill
In many American households, the Thanksgiving celebration has lost much of its original religious significance; instead, it now centers on cooking and sharing a bountiful meal with family and friends. Turkey, a Thanksgiving staple so ubiquitous it has become all but synonymous with the holiday, may or may not have been on offer when the Pilgrims hosted the inaugural feast in 1621. Today, however, nearly 90 percent of Americans eat the bird—whether roasted, baked or deep-fried—on Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation. Other traditional foods include stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Volunteering is a common Thanksgiving Day activity, and communities often hold food drives and host free dinners for the less fortunate.
Parades have also become an integral part of the holiday in cities and towns across the United States. Presented by Macy’s department store since 1924, New York City’s Thanksgiving Day parade is the largest and most famous, attracting some 2 to 3 million spectators along its 2.5-mile route and drawing an enormous television audience. It typically features marching bands, performers, elaborate floats conveying various celebrities and giant balloons shaped like cartoon characters.
Beginning in the mid-20th century and perhaps even earlier, the president of the United States has “pardoned” one or two Thanksgiving turkeys each year, sparing the birds from slaughter and sending them to a farm for retirement. A number of U.S. governors also perform the annual turkey pardoning ritual.



THANKSGIVING IN THE UK



photo credits: US Embassy in London
Thanksgiving Day in the United Kingdom is celebrated as a harvest festival. This day is a religious honouring to convey a feeling of gratitude to God for the year's plentiful and fruitful harvest and thanking family and friends for their love and support. The day is celebrated by preparing a special meal of large roasted turkey, which is a native American species, along with cranberry sauce, stuffing, with veggies. A variety of different pies with apple, mincemeat, pumpkin and pecan form the dessert menu. Gifts are also exchanged on this day which include flowers, jewellery, baked cookies, candy and wine. 
Many towns and cities stage spectacular parades on this day. Many people are on the roads to enjoy the decorated floats, the costumes, the music and the heavy balloons.
Source:  The History Channel (abridged and adapted)
You may also check relevant multimedia resources on this topic @:
You can get ELT resources (further info, lesson plans, printables, posters, slideshows, recipes, graphs, crafts, colouring pictures and greeting cards) on the topic @:

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

iTEC - Designing the Future Classroom

iTEC is about designing the future classroom. The project, which involves 15 Ministries of Education from across Europe, brings together teachers, policymakers, pedagogical experts - representatives from each stage of the educational process - to introduce innovative teaching practices.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

The Gunpowder Plot & Bonfire Night

After Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, English Catholics who had been persecuted under her rule had hoped that her successor, James I, would be more tolerant of their religion. James I had, after all, had a Catholic mother. Unfortunately, James did not turn out to be more tolerant than Elizabeth and a number of young men, 13 to be exact, decided that violent action was the answer.
A small group took shape, under the leadership of Robert Catesby. Catesby felt that violent action was warranted. Indeed, the thing to do was to blow up the Houses of Parliament. In doing so, they would kill the King, maybe even the Prince of Wales, and the Members of Parliament who were making life difficult for the Catholics. Today these conspirators would be known as extremists, or terrorists.
To carry out their plan, the conspirators got hold of 36 barrels of gunpowder - and stored them in a cellar, just under the House of Lords.
But as the group worked on the plot, it became clear that innocent people would be hurt or killed in the attack, including some people who even fought for more rights for Catholics. Some of the plotters started having second thoughts. One of the group members even sent an anonymous letter warning his friend, Lord Monteagle, to stay away from the Parliament on November 5th. Was the letter real?
The warning letter reached the King, and the King's forces made plans to stop the conspirators.
Guy Fawkes, who was in the cellar of the parliament with the 36 barrels of gunpowder when the authorities stormed it in the early hours of November 5th, was caught, tortured and executed.
It's unclear if the conspirators would ever have been able to pull off their plan to blow up the Parliament even if they had not been betrayed. Some have suggested that the gunpowder itself was so old as to be useless. Since Guy Fawkes and the other conspirators got caught before trying to ignite the powder, we'll never know for certain.
Even for the period which was notoriously unstable, the Gunpowder Plot struck a very profound chord for the people of England. In fact, even today, the reigning monarch only enters the Parliament once a year, on what is called "the State Opening of Parliament". Prior to the Opening, and according to custom, the Yeomen of the Guard search the cellars of the Palace of Westminster. Nowadays, the Queen and Parliament still observe this tradition.
On the very night that the Gunpowder Plot was foiled, on November 5th, 1605, bonfires were set alight to celebrate the safety of the King. Since then, November 5th has become known as Bonfire Night. The event is commemorated every year with fireworks and burning effigies of Guy Fawkes on a bonfire.
Some of the English have been known to wonder, in a tongue in cheek kind of way, whether they are celebrating Fawkes' execution or honoring his attempt to do away with the government.

Was Guy framed?

There was no doubt an attempt to blow up Parliament on November 5th 1605. But Guy Fawkes and his associates may have been caught in a Jacobean sting operation which would have served the authorities by casting Catholics, or Recusants, as an enemy to be pursued.
By the time Queen Elizabeth died, after ruling for about fifty years, most people only remembered living under her rule. When James I succeeded to the throne, many saw an opportunity for change. Those who felt particularly hard done by, both by Elizabeth I and James I, even felt that the situation was so bad as to require, in Fawkes' own words, "a desperate remedy": it was an opportunity to simply replace the current king.
These were unstable times indeed, with several smaller plots being discovered in the years preceding 1605. In fact, many of the Gunpowder plotters were known as traitors to the authorities. For this reason, it would have been difficult, if not unlikely, for them to gather 36 barrels of gunpowder and store them in a cellar under the house of Lords without the security forces getting suspicious.
Furthermore, the letter warning one of the members of government to stay away from Parliament is believed today to have been fabricated by the king's officials. Historians suggest that the King's officials already knew about the plot, that one of the plotters in fact revealed the key points of the plot to the authorities. The suspected turncoat? Francis Tresham.
The letter, then, would be a tool created by the King's officials to explain how, at the last minute, the king found out about the Plot and stopped it just before it wreaked its havoc on Parliament and himself. At the same time, the letter was vague enough to give the officials all the latitude they wanted in falsifying confessions and to pursue their own anti-Catholic ends.
There are two fundamental problems with the letter. Firstly, the letter was unsigned. Any and all of the conspirators, once apprehended, might have saved themselves from torture and perhaps even death if they could claim to have written it. None did. Not one of the conspirators who was caught appears to have known about the letter. Secondly, the letter was very vague in its content. It said nothing about the details of the planned attack. Still, the king and his men knew exactly the where and when to catch the conspirators and stop the explosion just hours before it was to take place.
How did they know?

The Plot Today

Guy left his name for everyday use

Today, we use the word "guy" to mean "person" or "man", as in "that guy across the street". Although the Oxford English Dictionary won't vouch for this theory, many linguists and historians think that our use of the term in that way is from our friend Guy Fawkes.
It's difficult to trace the exact path of the word over the centuries, but it probably started by referring to the effigy of Fawkes that was thrown on top of the bonfire every November 5th as "a guy". Still today, as they walk down the street trying to collect money for fireworks, kids will ask for "a penny for the guy." From there, it's not a huge leap to talk about "a guy" as a living person. The use of the word would have grown from there.
                         
The Opening of Parliament

Another tradition still observed by Britons is the annual visit of the Queen to Parliament every year. Ever since the Gunpowder Plot, the reigning monarch enters the Parliament only once a year, on what is called "the State Opening of Parliament". Prior to the Opening, and according to custom, the Yeomen of the Guard search the cellars of the Palace of Westminster. Today, the Queen and Parliament still observe this tradition.
No one really expects to find 36 barrels of gunpowder when our Yeomen undertake this task every year. But, just like most of us who like a good Bonfire Night, it's clear the Lords and MPs like a bit of a celebration, too.

Bonfire Night

For 400 years, bonfires have burned on November 5th to mark the failed Gunpowder Plot.
The tradition of Guy Fawkes-related bonfires actually began the very same year as the failed coup. The Plot was foiled in the night between the 4th and 5th of November 1605. Already on the 5th, agitated Londoners who knew little more than that their King had been saved, joyfully lit bonfires in thanksgiving. As years progressed, however, the ritual became more elaborate.
Soon, people began placing effigies onto bonfires, and fireworks were added to the celebrations. Effigies of Guy Fawkes, and sometimes those of the Pope, graced the pyres. Still today, some communities throw dummies of both Guy Fawkes and the Pope on the bonfire (and even those of a contemporary politician or two), although the gesture is seen by most as a quirky tradition, rather than an expression of hostility towards the Pope.
Preparations for Bonfire Night celebrations include making a dummy of Guy Fawkes, which is called "the Guy". Some children even keep up an old tradition of walking in the streets, carrying "the Guy" they have just made, and beg passersby for "a penny for the Guy." The kids use the money to buy fireworks for the evening festivities.
On the night itself, Guy is placed on top of the bonfire, which is then set alight; and fireworks displays fill the sky.
The extent of the celebrations and the size of the bonfire varies from one community to the next. Lewes, in the South East of England, is famous for its Bonfire Night festivities and consistently attracts thousands of people each year to participate.
Bonfire Night is not only celebrated in Britain. The tradition crossed the oceans and established itself in the British colonies during the centuries. It was actively celebrated in New England as "Pope Day" as late as the 18th century. Today, November 5th bonfires still light up in far out places like New Zealand and Newfoundland in Canada.

For more information and for rhymes, chants and Bonfire Night recipes, visit Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night.

The British Council has also a great multimedia lesson plan available here. You can either do it by yourself if you are a student or explore it in class if you are a teacher.

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